Case Number 04431


Universal // 2003 // 105 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // May 17th, 2004

The Charge


Opening Statement

Dwayne "The-Rock-is-Such-a-Cooler-Name-Than-This-One" Johnson embarks on his second headlining role in this late 2003 actioner. Hoping to carve out a name for himself as a rising action movie icon, The Rock has already bagged three flicks in a short period of time: this, The Scorpion King, and the recently released and recently vanished Walking Tall. He and the Hollywood Powers That Be are certainly looking to kick his career into overdrive, but with cooled box office hauls, is the grappler-turned-actor destined for big-screen glory or is it back to the squared-circle for him?

The Rundown makes a good case for the former.

Facts of the Case

Beck (The Rock) is a pretty talented guy. Here is a man with two profound gifts. He has a flair for the culinary, and longs to open his own restaurant one day. The movie opens with him sitting in his car, eagerly absorbing cooking tips via CD. However, it is his second talent that has him sitting in this car, preparing to enter a nightclub and a very dangerous situation.

He kicks beaucoup ass.

Beck is a reluctant combatant, always looking to solve his problems through nonviolent means. However, his career as a "retrieval expert" often doesn't allow a peaceful tack. Lucky for the audience, when Beck unleashes his fisticuff fury, it is a spectacle to behold.

The bounty hunter is given his final assignment -- to secure and bring back his boss's estranged son, Travis (Seann William Scott), from the heart of South America. Travis is on the prowl for a valuable artifact hidden deep in the jungle. But Beck cares little, only wishing to drag the kid by any means possible back the States, where he can then begin his days as a restaurateur.

But Beck's plans are met with two big challenges: Travis's stubbornness and a power-hungry, violence-prone prospector named Hatcher (Christopher Walken). Hatcher has laid claim to a jerkwater, sweaty little mining town named Helldorado. Here he rules over hundreds of down-trodden, impoverished miners. In exchange for a shanty and barely enough to eke out an existence, Hatcher puts the villagers to work incessantly.

At first Beck is reluctant to get involved, focusing only on his mission to return the pain-in-the-Rocks Travis. But the duo soon finds themselves eyebrow-deep in the jungle, facing off with some short-tempered natives and eluding the pursuit of the fiendish Hatcher.

Along for the ride is the gorgeous Mariana (Rosario Dawson), who seeks both the lost treasure and a better life for her oppressed Helldorado-ites. Beck must then put aside the passive and turn on the aggressive, the result of which is explosions and gunfire and punches to the face.

The Evidence

I've ranted before on Hollywood's insistence on watering down its action movies to hit the consumer-friendly PG-13 rating. And normally, I think it stands that for most PG-13 high-octane flicks, you can tell that the filmmakers tried too hard to soft-boil their product. The Rundown, however, struck me as tailor-made PG-13 action movie. It would be difficult for me to picture it as an R. More than difficult, but flat-out disorienting.

The Rundown is a good movie. It's full of some quirky performances, the action is great, and the scenery is striking. But above all, it's fun. And it really appears as if the actors are having fun. Walken's Hatchet is certainly a scumball villain, but his menace is never to the point of diabolical. Sure he's a jerk, but any villain that can deliver a monologue about the Tooth Fairy cannot be entirely feared. If there's such thing as a "fun villain," Walken delivers one.

The Rock is also having fun, and his character allows him to do that. The guy has natural charisma, and though I'm not a fan of professional wrestling, I also live above ground so I'm certainly privy to his exploits as his wrestling persona. He really manages to strike a good balance bringing self-deprecation, brawn, and wit to Beck. Beck's tough, but he's not an immovable force. Mixing in his reluctance to mix it up initially, his cooking inclinations, and his distaste for guns, director Peter Berg has presented a really likable action hero.

The violence is more or less hyperkinetic and stylized. But it works for the movie. The action really complements the almost cartoonish nature of the film.

The presentation is pretty sharp. There are many different colors to behold in the film, from the dusty grime of Helldorado to the green, sweaty jungle canopy, and the transfer does them justice. The helicopter shots overlooking the vistas (the movie was shot in Hawaii) are breathtaking, and the rich greenness is striking.

More striking, though, is the audio. The 5.1 mix is very, very aggressive, particularly in the action scenes. The bullets whizzing by are accurately pushed by the surrounds, and the LFE gets a decent workout. It's a nice little roll in the hay for your A/V setup.

Universal has put forth a real solid effort with special features. Everything from the fight choreography to the location (filming in the jungle and building a mining town from scratch) to pyrotechnics to even shooting the breeze with Christopher Walken gets the treatment. Each featurette is interesting, and there is no shortage of screwing around by the cast. Also included are some deleted scenes that don't add a terrible amount to the movie. "The Rundown Uncensored," a stab at parody, fell flat.

Two commentaries are present, one with The Rock and director Peter Berg, and the other with producers Kevin Misher and Marc Abraham. Both are informative and worthwhile, though I found The Rock and Berg's the most enjoyable. The Rock's amiable personality shines through with his track, and he and Berg have a fun time harassing each other and cracking wise.

A very nice package.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

It's not all flowers and happiness. I don't hate Seann William Scott, but he grating on my nerves as the movie progressed. And some of the humor just seemed too forced and over-the-top. Basically, the movie excelled in the action and more subtle comical performances.

Closing Statement

The Rock is cool. The Rundown is cool. The disc is cool. Go get it.

The Verdict

Thanks for all the fighting and explosions! Court adjourned.

Review content copyright © 2004 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 95
Audio: 95
Extras: 95
Acting: 85
Story: 85
Judgment: 91

Perp Profile
Studio: Universal
Video Formats:
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)

* French
* Spanish

Running Time: 105 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13

Distinguishing Marks
* Commentary by The Rock and Director Peter Berg
* Commentary by producers Kevin Misher and Marc Abraham
* Deleted Scenes
* "Rumble in the Jungle" (stunts and fight scenes)
* "Appetite for Destruction" (effects)
* "The Amazon, Hawaii Style" (location)
* The Rundown Uncensored
* "Running Down the Town" (building the town set)
* Walken's World

* IMDb